Soy milk was once thought of as a mere substitute for vegans and the lactose intolerant. The idea that a vegetable can produce milk may not be welcomed by all, especially meat-eaters, but now of days, people are changing their minds about soy milk and other soy products. It is no longer for one group of consumers. People who are concerned with their health in general, are now sharing a love for soy as they realize that there are many health benefits that come along with consuming it.
There are many soy products to choose from (e.g., tofu, tempeh, soy cheese soy milk, etc.) Soy milk is probably the most popular soy product to crossover into mainstream diets. Soy milk obviously is not truly “milk”, however its use and other foods that can be produced from it mimic the use of animal’s milk. For example, cheeses, yogurts, ice creams can all be made from a soy base, creating a dairy-free version of any traditional milk product. The process of making soy milk is by grinding the soybean and emulsifying it with water. After the proteins coagulate, the liquid left over is drained and there is where you get your soy milk.
Benefit #1) To begin with soy milk packs a good amount of protein (about 35%) as it comes from a bean. It also contains a considerable amount more fiber than cow’s milk.
Benefit #2) One of the most beneficial components of soy milk is the fact that it contains something called isoflavones. These isoflavones act similar to hormones in certain respects. They have cancer-preventing properties as well as help prevent heart disease and osteoporosis. So for those who swear by cow’s milk for fear of losing bone density, soy milk can help you in that area.
Benefit #3) Many products, including dairy products, contain various hormones. From the farm to the factory, there are multiple pathways where hormones can be added and stripped away from cow’s milk. With organic soy products, there is no animal to feed these nasty hormones to. With organic, non-flavored soy products, you get the bean and nothing but the bean.
Benefit #4) For those with a family history of High Blood Pressure or Diabetes, switching to soy can change your Lipid Profile as well as limit insulin spikes. Both of these health conditions are growing epidemics in many countries, therefore this benefit speaks to many consumers who may be trying to avoid their genetic-related health concerns.
Consideration #1) The downside is that soy milk only contains about 25% of the calcium that can be found in cow’s milk. And although some brands are now fortifying their soy milk with added calcium, the mineral is best consumed in its natural state. Some additional ways to supplement our diet with calcium is to consume foods like sardines, almonds, and various leafy greens and other veggies. So if you are considering making the switch to soy, do not let the lack of calcium deter you.
Consideration #2) A common misconception is that soy milk is a lighter option in terms of being lower in calories or fat. The truth is that it is slightly higher in fat compared to 2% cow’s milk. Keep in mind that this is good fat and should not be categorized with the cholesterol found in animal’s milk. Therefore, switching from cow’s milk to soy milk may still aid your weight loss efforts.
Consideration #3) Although very minimal, as with many other food or environmental products, there is a minor risk for allergic reactions. Some children have been found to be allergic to some soy products, however the allergic reaction is usually very mild.
Consideration #4) Because soy contains isoflavones, it can mimic hormones that naturally occur in the body, which can be problematic for women with breast cancer. It is important to note that soy products will not cause breast cancer. Rather, the isoflavones can increase the rate at which cancerous cells grow. Although studies on this differ in their conclusions, this is just another point to consider.
It is important to keep in mind that all of these health benefits are suggested assuming only that you are consuming non-genetically modified soy products. Be sure to read food and nutrition labels carefully so that you do not fall into this trap. Products labeled “organic soy” are safe in that they have not been modified with herbicides. Otherwise, if you do not see this phrase, assume the worst! All of these other products are most likely herbicide-treated.
Looking at the overall picture and the general population, making the switch to soy may be the right option for you. You can begin with trying it in your coffee or cereal, although you will not reap the entire benefits, as you will be consuming too little. Then bump it up and increase the amount you intake. If you are not converted into a soy-lover, at least you tried and at least now you know the truth about soy.